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Friends and Family Endow Scholarship in Honor of Engineering Mentor

Sam A Johnson III graduated from the Capstone with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1964, and he worked as a consulting engineer before joining Gulf States Paper Corp. in 1966. He remained a dedicated employee to the company, working his way up through the ranks and serving in many capacities, including senior project engineer, section engineer, director of new construction, assistant engineering manager, director of engineering and maintenance, vice president and plant manager of manufacturing and, eventually, vice president and general manager of the mill.

Johnson spent his entire career with Gulf States, which later became Rock-Tenn Co., and he would have retired from the company if cancer hadn’t ended his life at the age of 64.

Johnson loved helping people, especially mentoring young engineers. “Sam gave young engineers the chance to advance rapidly in the company,” said David Tait, a former employee and close friend of Johnson. “He knew when to offer advice and leadership and not let us make costly mistakes. He was an outstanding leader, and he was very ‘down-to-earth’ when interacting with young engineers. He had no trouble relating with people at every level.”

Johnson’s impact was widely felt and, after his death in August 2006, Johnson’s friends and family wanted a way to honor their former supervisor, friend, and colleague.

“Sam would not have wanted people spending their money for flowers. When David Tait, Leroy McAbee, and Jim Bambarger approached me about the idea for an endowed scholarship, I couldn’t think of any better way to honor Sam,” explained Betty, Sam’s wife of 34 years.

The fund would not have been possible without the many generous donations of employees and friends. Betty is quite humbled by the number of donations from friends and associates.

Through the Sam A Johnson III Endowed Scholarship, Johnson’s legacy of teaching engineers will continue. Priority consideration for scholarship is given to students who major in civil, construction, and environmental engineering, and who graduated from high schools in Demopolis, Alabama, or from high schools in Greene, Hale, Marengo, or Sumter counties.

“Sam believed in hard work with integrity, leadership, and respect,” said Betty. “I think he would be so happy that we have established this scholarship to help kids in our community to go to the Capstone to become engineers.”

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